One of the longest-running franchises that sadly remains niche in the West is Banpresto's Compati Hero series. Based on super-deformed gashapon toys you can still collect from vending machines across Japan, it marked the first time several franchises crossed over to create an absolutely zany universe that only the hardest core Gundam/Kaiju/Sentai experts could navigate successfully. Without a doubt the Super Robot Wars saga was the biggest entries in the series, but there are a huge number of spin-offs accommodating several other genres such as JRPGs, sports, arcade action titles and even pinball! Versatile lot those SD fellows.
Among the ROM hacking community the letters AGTP (Aeon Genesis Translation Projects) are synonymous with extraordinary translation/localisation projects of quality that, despite being unofficial and fan-made, rival any official job in the business. To celebrate the group's 19th anniversary, Gideon Zhi announced on Twitter that the original five The Great Battle outings for the Super Famicom would be getting translations. Since we believe most of our beloved readers are not familiar with these games, we made a quick recap of each entry below.
Title: SD The Great Battle
Release Date: 29th December, 1990
The series kicked off with this charming top-down view action title. You can switch anytime between Ultraman, Kamen Rider and RX-78-2 Gundam, but your team will increase after you rescue Kamen Rider V3, Ultraman Taro and the Knight Gundam. Seven levels with world bosses and cutscenes set the plot for a colourful, zany adventure. The lack of a two-player mode is not the saddest side note about this entry but rather the fact that this was once ready for US release and then quietly canned.
Quite a departure for the series as Ultraman, Kamen Rider and Gundam take on the mean streets of the new SD Nation Space Colony, mashing up anything on their path in the first side-scrolling beat-'em-up of The Great Battle series. Another welcome two-player mode means you can, for the first time, share the insanity with a fellow gashapon enthusiast. This was also the game that introduced Banpresto's original character and eventual poster boy of the whole franchise: Fighter Roar. Unlike most games, you can switch between any of the characters with 'Select' rather than choosing one and sticking with it the whole game. It may not be up to the (very high) standards of TMNT IV: Turtles In Time, but is rather satisfying to beat up SD Zakus and SD Doms nonetheless.
Title: The Great Battle III
Release Date: 26th March, 1993
Spoof: Golden Axe / Knights Of The Round
Picking up from the end of the previous game our impromptu team of four heroes somehow manages to crash their ship into an asteroid but instead of total annihilation, they end up being teleported to a medieval world. This is, of course, the perfect excuse for them to grab some medieval weaponry and kick all sorts of super deformed behind. Once again a side-scrolling beat-'em-up for up to two players, it enhances everything in the previous game but sadly ditches the branching paths. It does, however, have a weapon upgrade system and shops enable you to spend your SD currency in upgrades and you can still switch between the four heroes on the fly. A fine entry and mandatory pickup for anyone who wondered how SD Gundam would look while swinging a claymore around.
Title: The Great Battle IV
Release Date: 17th December, 1994
Spoof: Mega Man X
Once again Banpresto decided to mix things up and turned the fourth entry into a platformer. Take control of 'Battle Force' (V2 Gundam, Kamen Rider ZO, Ultraman powered and once you clear the first stage Fighter Roar) and use each of the characters unique powers to conquer both enemies and level obstacles. Another of the series literal biggest staples is introduced in this game: The Compati Kaiser! Nearly 150 tons of giant mech formed from each of the hero's individual ships is yours to control at the end of each level as you face off against equally giant mechs for metal fisticuffs. An overlooked gem on Super Famicom.
Title: The Great Battle V
Release Date: December 22, 1995
Spoof: Wild Guns
Last but not least, the Super Famicom's final entry for the series takes our SD heroes to the cowboy world of Garcia. While it remains mostly a platformer like the previous game, but now levels break into brilliant Wild Gun's style with plenty of screen shooting sections. This is the first game where you don't get to play as all characters at once, instead Fighter Roar takes centre stage and you pick one partner to take along the adventure. Replay value is assured since each of the three teammates has a different level paths to the end game. Sadly, Compati Kaiser is a no-show, but it is a small price to pay to bask in the glory of SD Ultraman dressed up as the Sheriff.
Despite decades old and primarily aimed at children during the SD gashapon craze, Banpresto series has endured and aged gracefully thanks to the timeless charming graphics and absolutely hilarious situations the series heroes end up in. Now thanks to the dedicated efforts of the team at Aeon Genesis, the silly plots are no longer a wall that prevented English western gamers to fully enjoy these five titles. If you own a RetroN 5 or Retro Freak clone console, the translations patches will work with your original Super Famicom cartridges.
Were or are you still a fan of SD Robot Wars? Did you encounter Banpresto's adventures in the past? Are you planning on picking up SD Gundam G Generation Genesis on Switch when it arrives on Switch? Tell us all about your hidden gashapon addiction in the comments section below...
UPDATE: Patches updated for The Great Battle II, III, IV and V, fixing several bug fixes including the main title screen for The Great Battle V.